Obama to meet with congressional leaders the day sequester takes effect

President Obama will meet with congressional leaders at the White House on Friday to discuss preventing the automatic spending cuts set to take place that day, an administration official confirmed.

The meeting comes as efforts to resolve the sequester have stalled.

ADVERTISEMENT
With the deadline looming, Obama has not had a face-to-face meeting with leaders on the issue. Last week, he placed calls to congressional leaders to discuss the impending $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts.

The meeting will include Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has said, following other divisive budget battles, that he would not be returning to the negotiating table with Obama.

Obama also had a "brief conversation" with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill on Wednesday prior to attending the unveiling of the Rosa Parks statue, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.

"We remain hopeful that Republicans will understand the need to compromise and that compromise has balance at its essence," Carney said.

The White House has escalated its attacks on congressional Republicans, seeking to put the blame squarely on Boehner and other lawmakers in an escalating public relations war.

Democrats argue the sequester should be replaced with a package of spending cuts and tax hikes that would fall on the wealthy and special interests. Republicans argue any replacement bill should not include new taxes.

Republicans after a weeklong recess have returned to Washington determined to not cede the stage to Obama.

On Tuesday, Boehner accused the Democratic-controlled Senate of failing to move on a bill to prevent the spending cuts from taking effect.

“We moved a bill in the House twice,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference. “We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something.”

At the same time, Republicans blamed Obama for coming up with idea of the sequester. And they also lobbed charges that the administration is employing scare tactics to win over public opinion.

“The president needs to stop campaigning, stop trying to scare the American people, stop trying to scare states,” Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.) said on Monday.

Earlier in the week, the Obama administration warned that the spending cuts would leave the nation vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

The White House believes it has the public's backing. And instead of sitting down with congressional leaders, Obama has been holding a string of White House and campaign-style events designed to put pressure on Republicans.

“These cuts are wrong,” Obama told a crowd Tuesday in Newport News, Va., where thousands in the shipbuilding industry could be hurt by the spending cuts. ”They're not smart. They're not fair. They're a self-inflicted wound that doesn't have to happen.”

The administration continued its aggressive PR offensive on Wednesday, dispatching Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss how the spending cuts would cause teacher layoffs and impact early childhood education programs.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Duncan said the sequester could force as many as 14,000 teachers to lose their jobs and cost students at universities across the nation access to grants and work-study opportunities.

"I can't tell you how troubling that is to me and how angry it makes me feel," Duncan said. "It's mind-boggling to me. It's inconceivable that this could actually happen."

The Education secretary said the impending cuts come at an unfortunate time, when schools have already suffered steep budget cuts.

"School districts have been hit really, really hard," Duncan said.

Duncan sought to dispute claims that the administration hasn't been speaking to congressional leaders on a deal to avert the sequester.

"My sense is that there have been lots of conversations back and forth," he said.

Then, directing a message to congressional Republicans, Duncan added, "You have to compromise. You have to find common ground. You have to come to the middle."

 — Published at 10 a.m. and updated.